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For over two decades, from 1941 to 1961, Nelson Mandela was a member of the organized legal profession in South Africa: an articled clerk, a professional assistant, a sole practitioner and well as practicing in partnership. In 1939, aged 21 years, when he commenced his studies at Fort Hare University, he had arrived courtesy of Regent Jongintaba’s vehicle – in 1964, just more than 25 years later, he would arrive at Robben Island courtesy of a military transport plane.

This is the story of Nelson Mandela, an Attorney at Law by profession and a professional revolutionary by evocation!

Mandela the Lawyer

Nelson Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 at Mvezo, a tiny village on the banks of the Mbase River, in the district of Umtata, and spent most of his early years at Qunu. His father’s family were members of the royal clan and councillors to the Thembu king. They traced their lineage to King Ngubengcuka (c1790-1830) who had united the Thembu kingdom, which was a loose agglomeration of chieftaincies. Nelson Mandela was aged nine when his father, Henry Gadla died. Shortly before his death his father had arranged for the young Mandela to live with the Thembu Paramount Chief-Jongintaba, the regent of the Paramount Kingdom.


  rondavel 300 220   jongintaba 300 220  
  The Rondavel at The Great Place   Mandela's guardian  
  in Mqhekezweni where Mandela    Jongintaba Dalindyebo, who   
  lived as a child, in the    raised him, following his   
  care of Jongintaba    father's death   

At the age of 16 he underwent the circumcision ceremony in the mountains that brought him into manhood. Soon thereafter he was taken in the regent’s car to Clarkebury College, which was founded by the Methodist Missionaries in 1825 when the Thembu King, Ngubengcuka, granted them land. Here Mandela showed promise as a student, completing his Junior Certificate in the reduced time of 2 years.

His final year at boarding school was in 1938 at Healtdown, and in 1939, aged 21 he became an undergraduate at Fort Hare University, which had been founded by Eastern Cape Missionaries in 1916 and had some 150 students at the time. He enrolled for a BA degree, studying English, Anthropology Law and Native Administration, which would have rendered him employable within the Native Affairs Department in Pretoria. It was a realistic goal in those days and Mandela saw himself becoming qualified as an interpreter between Xhosa and English, perhaps working with a Magistrate. His closest friend at Fort Hare was Kaizer Matanzima who was Mandela’s cousin and a prime advocate for separate development. He had graduated from Fort Hare University with a BA degree in Roman law and started his legal articles in 1940 and in 1944 won the Cape Law Society prize for his results in the Attorney’s Admission exam, even though he was never to practice as a lawyer.

In late 1940, a year after his arrival, Mandela became involved with a student dispute – he had been elected to the Students Council but because of a boycott refused to take up his position. For this he was effectively expelled much to the dismay of Jongintaba, who insisted that he would have to return to Fort Hare for the New Year. In addition Jongintaba was planning arranged marriages for Nelson and his brother Justin and so the two of them decided to run off - stealing two of Jongintaba’s cows, and selling them to the local trader. Eventually they received a lift with a local attorney by car to Johannesburg reaching Egoli on 16 April 1941.


  cousin KD Matanzima 300 220   wife evelyn 300 220  
   Nelson Mandela     Mandela's first wife, Evelyn   
  and his cousin,    with their two sons   
  KD Matanzima   Thembi & Makgatho - late 1940's  

One of the first people Nelson and his brother Justin called on was Dr Xuma, the recently elected president of the ANC and a family friend. He referred them to a Mr Wellbeloved who sent them for jobs at Crown Mines. Justin was given a trainee position whilst Mandela had to work as a night watchman. He was given a round hat, a knopkierrie night stick and a whistle. Another telegram arrived from Jongintaba urging the induna to send the brothers home. Mandela had an old revolver in his suitcase which was searched by a guard as they were about to leave. For this he was charged, went to court and was given a small fine.

Mandela went to stay with a cousin, Garlick Mbekene, and told his relative of his ambition to become a lawyer. Mbekene introduced him to Walter Sisulu who was also born in Thembuland, and was the leader of the local ANC branch, the leader of a choir, and a member of the Xhosa homeboy association. Sisulu was an estate agent, but not in the way it is understood today. Alexandra had been established as a native location in 1912 and was thereby excluded from the structures of the 1913 Land Act, which prevented Africans buying or selling properties in white areas. A German businessman provided the loans and the law firm Witkin, Sidelsky and Eidelman registered the bonds that indemnified the loans. Sisulu sourced the clients for a commission. Mandela told Sisulu that he wanted to study law, so Sisulu introduced him to attorney Lazar Sidelsky, who agreed to take him on as an articled clerk, (today referred to as candidate attorney) whilst he completed his degree by correspondence course.


  dr alfred xuma 300 220   walter sisulu 300 220  
  Dr. Alfred Xuma   Walter Sisulu  

It was rare in those days for white law firms to grant articles to black persons – nationwide there were just 18 qualified lawyers in 1946 and at a time when only 2% of Johannesburg’s African population could claim professional status. Mandela signed up for a course with UNISA, which was financed by Sisulu and began working with Witkin’s.

The first black person to be admitted as an attorney by a South African court was Alfred Mangena ( on 14 July 1910) followed Pixley ka Isaka Seme (on 22 December 1910) and George Dixon Montsio in 1911. In 1960 there were 60 black lawyers in South Africa of which at least a third were based in the Transkei at the time. The administrative centres in the Native Reserves offered at least as many opportunities as Johannesburg where apartheid’s urban restrictions made for a precarious existence. Prosperous Africans, clustered in the professions around the Bunga, owned property in Umtata and offered lucrative opportunities for a new generation of African lawyers who took on their business. The other centres of the African legal practice were Johannesburg and Durban.

By the middle of 1942 Mandela was staying for free in the mining compounds and then lived for a few months at the home of Walter Sisulu at 7372 Orlando West. It is there that he met Evelyn Mase, the couple getting married on 5 October 1944, after a ‘whirlwind courtship’. Mandela was twenty-six old and Evelyn twenty-three and there was no money for lobola or a feast for the wedding guests. Thembekile was born on 23 February 1946. Evelyn received 18 pounds per month from her nursing job and the couple moved to 8115 Orlando West at a monthly rent of 17d 6din around early 1947. The Mandelas had a second child, a daughter called Makiwaze. She was ill from birth and never recovered, dying after 9 months, in 1948. A second son, Makgatho was born in August 1950, and 1954 saw the birth of a daughter Makaziwe, named in tribute to the daughter who had died in infancy five years earlier.

Life as an articled clerk was tough and money was in short supply. His starting salary was 2 pounds per month rising to 8 pounds per month by December 1946. He owned one hand-me-down suit which was given to him by Mr. Sidelsky and which required constant patching to stay in one piece. Sometimes he would walk the five miles to work to save on bus money and have more money for food. In the forties, the way to practice as an attorney, was to complete 5 years of articles and successfully complete the Attorney Admission Examination and this is how Mandela qualified as an attorney.


  sidelsky bregman mandela   percy yutar 300 220  
  Old friends - with fellow   Old foes -  
  articled clerk Nat Bregman & his   with Rivonia prosecutor  
  former ‘Principal’ Lazar Sidelsky   Percy Yutar  

Also working for Sidelsky was fellow articled clerk Nat Bregman, a Marxist and also a stand-up comedian who sometimes did turns on the radio and later ran his own law practice. Mandela described him as his first white friend, went to meetings with him and shared his sandwiches during their lunch break. He studied diligently at night and in 1943 returned to Fort Hare University for his Bachelor of Arts degree graduation.

In 1943 Mandela had also enrolled at Wits to begin his Bachelor of Laws course – the LLB, in the hope of becoming an advocate. It was a part-time course and he was then the only black student in the law faculty and there had never been a black barrister in Johannesburg. Duma Nokwe was the first black advocate to be called to the Bar in 1956. It was through the university that he met Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Bram Fischer, George Bizos, J.N. Singh and Ismail Meer, among many others. In December 1946 Mandela applied to the Bantu Welfare Trust for a loan of 250 pounds, which he said he required to study full-time for his final year’s LLB. This loan was granted. Mandela, by his own account was a very poor student – he had been studying for the LLB for six years and had failed the final three times. In December 1949 he wrote to the Dean of the Law Faculty, Professor Hahlo pleading for one last chance to retake his failed final examinations. At a special meeting on 14 December 1949 the Dean and six colleagues of the faculty board denied his request, in that he had failed in three courses in his final year.

In 1952, Mandela re-registered for the LLB at Wits, but that was cancelled in mid-year for non payment of fees. Although now working for Hyman Basner as an attorney, Mandela evidently did not have the money to pay his fees, but this time it seems the university was prepared to give him a sympathetic hearing.

When the principal, Humphrey Raikes, was advised by the university’s accountant of the pending cancellation, he recommended that Mandela be given the opportunity to see the registrar, Glyn Thomas, a sympathetic figure who might have given useful advice and assistance. Mandela never took up the invitation — by then he was too deeply involved in the Defiance Campaign, and would soon launch his own law firm in partnership with Oliver Tambo.


  final year LLB Wits 1949 600 328  
  Mandela as a student at Wits University where he studied part- time   
  from 1943 - 1946 & fulltime in 1947 - 1948. Professor Hahlo (centre)  


In 1948, Daniel Francois Malan became Prime Minister and began the imposition of grand apartheid. Novelist JM Coetzee defines apartheid as follows: ‘Apartheid was a system of enforced segregation based on race or ethnicity, put in place by an exclusive, self-defined group in order to consolidate colonial conquest particularly to cement its hold on the natural resources’. This exclusive group were the white people (then still called Europeans). Playwright Athol Fugard wrote: ‘Because surely, nowhere in the world today – and I am sure that it is equally true of the past – has there ever been a society where the dominant political philosophy, aided and abetted by the dominant Christian theology, has led seemingly rational men and women into mind-boggling and logic-defying lunacies – and what makes it even more astounding is the all pervasive nature of this madness. There is not an area of our lives from the most private to the most public, that has not been affected by it’.

The ‘mother’ of the apartheid legislation (as it was referred to in Parliament in 1990) was the Population Registration Act of 1950, which classified all South Africans by race. The Group Areas Act, also of 1950 determined where the races could live whilst the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951 ordered the creation of the Bantustans rendering millions of non-white people effectively non-citizens in their country of birth, and criminals for merely not having a ‘pass’. On March 1963 Mr H J Botha spoke in the House of Assembly as follows on the homeland policy. ‘Just as our Dutch forefathers built dykes at Zeeland to keep the North Sea away from their fatherland, we are today constructing traditional dykes around South Africa to keep out the black hordes.” In March 1963 Mr C M Warren of the United Party quoted Mandela’s cousin, Chief Kaizer Matanzima in the House of Assembly as follows: ‘To me, separate development is what the Magna Carta is to the people of Britain. I wish to assure the country that the leaders of the Transkei can be counted amongst the best brains in the world’.


  boxer   old fort  
  Mandela kept fit working out    The Old Fort, where Mandela   
  as a boxer. He claimed      was twice detained in the 1950's.  
  to enjoy the ‘scientific    Now part of the   
  aspects of the sport'.    Constitutional Hill precinct.   

On 18 February 1953 the Secretary of Justice, Mr AEM Jansen, announced that it was the long-term policy of the Department of Justice to introduce complete apartheid in the Union’s courts, and in 1960 the Chief Magistrate of Cape Town announced that every court-room in the city had been equipped with a separate table for non-white lawyers. As a practicing lawyer Mandela would further experience racism and discrimination by being repeatedly asked for his ‘Attorney Identity’ card or having his qualifications quizzed by some Magistrates – something that seldom happened to his white colleagues.

In 1951, having completed his articles at Witkin, Mandela went to work for the law firm Terreblanche and Briggish where he stayed for about a year. He then joined the firm of Helman and Michel where he stayed for about 3 months. In order that he could earn enough and care for his family Mandela began studying for his qualifying attorney admission exams which he successfully completed. According to the records of the (former) Incorporated Law Society of the Transvaal, Mandela was admitted on the roll of attorneys in March 1951. The Law Society first saw the light of day in 1892 as De Ingelijfde Orde van Procureurs en Notarissen. In 1902 it became the Incorporated Law Society of the Transvaal, another distinguished member being Mahatma Ghandi, who was admitted as an attorney in 1903. In 1975 it was renamed The Law Society of the Transvaal and today is known as The Law Society of the Northern Provinces. After passing his examination, Mandela went to work for HM Basner as a fully-fledged attorney. Hymie Basner was a passionate supporter of African rights. According to Mandela ‘for the months I worked there I was often in court representing the firm’s many African clients.......after the experience I gained there I was ready to go on my own.’

According to the records of the Law Society, Mandela informed the Law Society on 5 September 1952 that he was now practicing on his own account. His secretary was Zubelda Patel who had gone along with Mandela from HM Basner. Oliver Tambo was it this time working for a law firm called Kovalsky and Tuch and Mandela often visited him there during his lunch hour. According to the records of the Law Society, Mandela advised them on 4 December 1953 that he was in partnership with Oliver Tambo. Ruth Mompati also joined the practice that year as a legal secretary. 


  OliverTambo300 220   mandela lawyer img 300 220  
  Oliver Tambo    Nelson Mandela   

It was the first partnership black law firm in South Africa and was called Mandela and Tambo Attorneys.

Mandela states in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom:

‘From the beginning Mandela and Tambo were besieged by clients. We were not the only African lawyers in South Africa but we were the only firm of African lawyers. For Africans, we were the firm of first choice and last resort. To reach our offices in the morning we had to move through a crowd of people in the hallways, on the stairs and in our small waiting room.

I realized quickly what Mandela and Tambo meant to ordinary Africans. It was a place where they could come to find a sympathetic ear and a competent ally, a place where they would not be turned away or cheated a place where they may actually feel proud to be represented by men of their own skin colour. This was the reason I had become a lawyer in the first place, and my work often made me feel I had made the right decision.'

Office hours of the partnership practice were from 8.00 to 17.00 often closing for lunch with the two partners going out for a curry. A new queue of clients would often have formed during the lunch hour. Mandela would now daily drive his two-tone green Oldsmobile (which he called his colossal Oldsmobile) from Orlando to Chancellor House, wearing double- breasted brass buttoned jackets made by Alfred Khan, who also made the suits for Harry Oppenheimer. Mandela and Oppenheimer may have shared tailors, but did not share sentiment. Harry Oppenheimer, then the United Party MP for Kimberley City, told The Cape Times on 26 July 1956: “It is essential, however, that a large measure of social and residential separation be maintained for many years to come, because the African was still “very primitive in his politics, culture and religion.” He forecast the disappearance of separation, but it would take many generations to bring this about, because the Africans had to be raised to the European standard.”

By all accounts Mandela was an effective lawyer, even though in court he was sometimes prone to theatrics and flamboyant gestures. His partner Oliver Tambo was the complete opposite – quiet, considered and reflective. By his own admission, Mandela was poor at handling administration work and finances, whereas Tambo was meticulous and careful. The partners therefore had an informal arrangement that Mandela would handle the bulk of the court cases and Tambo the bulk of the office work. Because Mandela was mostly confined to the Johannesburg Magisterial district as a result of his bannings he could not undertake court cases outside of these areas. Tambo then had to undertake this work and as a result the practice suffered.


  mandela and moroka 300 220   burning of passes  
  During the Defiance Campaign   The Defiance Campaign -   
   in 1952, with Dr Moroka.   burning passes  

In 1950 the Government passed the Suppression of Communism Act effectively liquidating the Communist Party, which at the time had a membership of approximately 2500 people. A liquidator was appointed to supervise the dissolution of Communist organizations and to compile a list of Communists, former Communists and Communist supporters. By 1958 the liquidator of the Communist Party had named about 600 people under the Act including Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela. In 1968, and whilst serving their sentences on Robben Island, the close friends successfully applied to court to have their names removed from this list.

The Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign began on 26 June 1952. In December 1952 a notice was issued by the Minister of Justice prohibiting Mandela from attending any gathering in the magisterial district for 6 months, and was also prohibited from living in any area of the Union except the Johannesburg Magisterial district. Police quelled the ongoing campaign by arresting many of its leaders, including Mandela, who was charged under the Suppression of Communism Act. There were twenty accused, and the noise of the court was so loud that the magistrate had to ask the ANC president, Dr Moroka (who had replaced Dr Xuma as ANC President in 1949) to make the crowd disperse, which he duly did. All the accused were convicted of furthering the objects of communism and received suspended sentences., The trial Judge Rumpff noting that they had consistently called on defiers to follow a ‘peaceful course of action and to avoid violence in any shape of form’. On 20 June 1949 The Minister of Justice, CR Swart said in the senate: ‘Of course, our magistrates and judges have also been trained to recognize a ‘skelm’ when they see one, and many of these Natives, I have noticed, try to put over a show as though they are very innocent, and they are not as innocent as they look’.


  suppression of communism trial   trial support 300 220  
  Twenty of the leaders     Supporters  
   faced charges   at the Trial   

As a result of this conviction The Transvaal Law Society applied to have Mandela’s name struck of the roll of attorneys. The matter was heard in the Supreme Court and Mandela was defended by the chairman of the Johannesburg Bar, Walter Pollak. The court refused to entertain the application and found that, although his actions could be regarded in a serious light, he was motivated to be of service to his fellow non-whites. The court held that this was not sufficient reason for striking his name off the roll'. According to The Incorporated Law Society of the Transvaal v Mandela 1954 (3) SA 102 (T) , the court also found that he would only be struck of if what he had done that that he was unworthy to remain in the ranks of an honourable profession. This contention proceeds, again, on the incorrect assumption that it is the court’s function to punish an attorney who has been convicted of an offence’. The application was dismissed.

On 25 to 26 May 1955, some 3000 people showed up at the Congress of the People which met at Kliptown where the Freedom Charter was adopted. Significant other mass operations at the time were the Western Areas campaign (against forced removals) and the campaign against Bantu education.

Wednesday morning, 5 December 1956, saw ‘the most dramatic single piece of police action in the Union’, as the Police, equipped with warrants signed by a Johannesburg Magistrate swooped down on several political leaders and arrested them on a charge of high treason. The accused came up in court in batches of twenty. All were formally charged with high treason and were remanded in custody at the Fort, Johannesburg’s Central Prison, until 19 December 1956. Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo were amongst the accused – the Treason Trial as it became known would drag on for many years and would have a debilitating impact of the partner’s legal practice.


  passes   proof  
  Nelson Mandela during the   The state produced   
  campaign against passes   10 000 exhibits for the   
  for women    preparatory examination   

The long preparatory examination started on 19 December 1956. The state alleged that the Freedom Charter was drawn up by the ANC, SAIC, SACP and the COD and sets out steps towards the overthrow of the government and the creation of a communist state; that some of the accused made speeches advocating extra-parliamentary action towards this purpose i.e. a revolution conducted by means of violence and bloodshed. One of the defence lawyers, Vernon Berrange QC, argued that the treason alleged against the 156 amounted to a political plot like those trumped up by authorities during the period of the Inquisition or the Reichstag fire trial in Germany. The defence would prove that the accused were “victims of political kite-flying on the part of those responsible for the prosecutions.” “This is no ordinary case”, he said, “if one has regard to the crude jack boot manner in which the arrests were affected.” Some members of the Special Branch of the CID admitted under cross-examination by the defence that the ANC had often stressed “the non-violent natured of its struggle.” The preparatory examination was completed in September 1957, and charges were withdrawn against 64 people including Oliver Tambo, and ANC president Albert Luthuli. The trial dragged on year after year and in March 1961 Justice Rumpff passed judgement, acquitting all the accused. This was on the basis that the ‘Government had not proved it was Communist-controlled and that the prosecution had also failed to prove that the Congress intended to achieve the charges it desired ‘by violent means’.


  song of protest   luthuli and tambo  
  Mandela at the centre of a song   Albert Luthuli & Oliver Tambo  
  of protest, Drill Hall, Johannesburg    - Both were discharged from  
   - 1956   the Treason Trial in 1958   

In January 1958 Mandela lodged his application with the court to divorce Evelyn, which divorce was finalized on 19 March 1958. In terms of the divorce settlement which was made an order of court, Evelyn kept the property at 8115 Orlando. She also received a the title deed to a plot of land Mandela had bought in Umtata, kept most of the movables, and received a lump sum of 50 pounds. She was also awarded custody of the three minor children and maintenance in the amount of 15 pounds per month for their upkeep and school fees. In June 1958 Mandela had been granted a six-day reprieve of his banning order and married Winnie at Bizana on 14 June 1958. She was arrested for the first time in October 1958, after joining the ANC women from Orlando at a public protest and was held for two weeks. Zenani was born on 5 February 1959 and Zindzi was born on 23 December 1960. Prison regulations did not allow visitors under 16 years old, causing him much pain during his imprisonment.

John Vorster was appointed Minister of Justice in 1960. Like Mandela, Vorster was also a lawyer who had been detained between 1942 and 1944 at Koffiefontein for his political beliefs. Vorster had risen through to the rank to General in the paramilitary wing of the Ossewabrandwag, although he claimed that he never committed any acts of sabotage. He often vowed to ‘crush’ the communists and shortly after being appointed he introduced the ‘90 day detention law’, whereby a person could be detained for a period 90 days without facing any charges.

On 21 March 1960 the Sharpeville massacre took place and in terms of the Unlawful Organizations Act, both the PAC and the ANC were banned. A state of emergency was declared which was to last for 156 days – at one stage up to 21 000 people were held at Modder B and other detention camps.


  state of emergency   nelson winnie zindzi 300 220  
  April 1960:   December 1960:  
  A State of Emergency was    Nelson & Winnie Mandela with  
  declared - Army in Johannesburg    their second daughter Zindzi   

In October 1960, the Verwoerd government held a referendum among the white population to proclaim the country a republic. The majority voted in favour. The date of the proclamation of the Republic was set for the fifty-first anniversary of the union, 31 May 1961. In May 1961 and only ten days after his second five year banning order had expired, Mandela appeared at the All-In Africa conference at Pietermaritzburg, which some 1 400 delegates attended.

They called for a ‘non- racial democratic constitution’ in South Africa and demanded the holding of a national convention of elected representatives of all adult men and women on an equal basis, irrespective of race, colour or creed. From this conference will come the foundation of a fully democratic government, Mandela told the gathering. Mandela soon proved to be the best public relations officer the ANC had ever known. When the police swooped, Mandela and his fellow leaders went into hiding.


  all in conference   fake passports 300 220  
  Addressing the All- in- Conference   Mandela’s fake passport in  
  in Pietermaritzburg - May 1961   the name of David Motsamayi  

The security police, who had said they would “skim the cream of non-white leadership as it rises”, started a man-hunt for Mandela and his colleagues. It went on for a month, but scarcely a day passed without Mandela making the headlines. There were telephone calls to newspaper editors and Mandela became one of the best known voices in South Africa, and he had secret meetings with journalists. In disguise and out of disguise, Mandela was very much at large – and under the noses of police. The stay-at-home call did however not succeed in fully capturing the imagination of many non-politically minded people.

On 8 January 1961 Mandela notified the Law Society that he was now practicing as a professional assistant. On 7 June 1961 the Law Society was notified by Mandela that he was no longer employed as a professional assistant but was doing ‘odd jobs’ at the Magistrate Court. On 5 July 1961 the law society was informed by Germiston law firm H Davidoff and Herman that Mr Mandela had ceased practicing. It would prove to be the final correspondence the Law Society received from Mandela as an attorney – who would now follow a different course of action.

In the latter half of 1961 Mandela, Sisulu and other ANC leaders and communist party members formed “Umkhonto we Sizwe” (spear of the nation) to carry out a programme of graduated violence. In late 1961 in various parts of the country, cells were established and bombs exploded at symbolic targets. Mandela appeared and disappeared in many corners of South Africa and the media called him “The Black Pimpernel”. He would spend quite a bit of time at the Rivonia smallholding, disguised as a gardener or chauffeur. In January 1962 he was to meet up with his former law partner, Oliver Tambo again, in Ethiopia, where Tambo had been sent to establish an external ANC presence.


  algeria 300 220   rivonia sleeping quarters bed 300 220  
  Mandela in Algeria 1962 -
  Rivonia sleeping quarters   
  visiting military officers   whilst on the run  

Mandela had been smuggled out of South Africa by road to Lobatsi in Botswana, and then by plane to Addis Ababa. According to his diary Mandela was considered a Government guest and ‘treated very lavishly’ by such leaders as Julius Nyerere, Habib Bourguiba, Sekou Toure, Leophold Senghor, Ben Balla of Nigeria and William Tubman of Liberia. In London he met Hugh Gaitskell of the Labour Party, and Jo Grimmond of the Labour Party. Haile Selassie of Ethiopia supplied Mandela with a false passport in the name of David Motsamayi, a former client of the Mandela and Tambo law practice. Mandela would continue to use this alias when he returned to South Africa.

On 5 August 1962 Mandela was arrested outside Howick, in KZN posing as a chauffeur– he had been to a meeting with Luthuli, reporting back on his world trip.

In May 2016 the Sunday Times revealed that David Rickard, who served as the US Vice Consul in Durban and was a CIA-operative, admitted to providing the intelligence that resulted in Mandela’s capture.


  cecil williams   mandela traditional dress 300 220  
  Cecil Williams was arrested   As he appeared during  
  with Mandela on 5 August 1962   his trial in October 1962  

Mandela was tried in the Johannesburg Regional Court for inciting a strike and leaving the country without a passport and was found guilty. He was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, and then sent to Robben Island, where he was placed in solitary confinement. By June 1963, more than 200 acts of sabotage had been committed in South Africa. On 11 July 1963 the police scooped on the Rivonia property, which contained extensive documentation linking Mandela to the plotters. He was brought from prison to the dock at Rivonia and, at the conclusion of that trial was found guilty on all four counts and sentenced to a life term.

The office in Chancellor House was destroyed in a fire in 1960 and this together with their increasing political activities made it impossible for them to continue with the law practise and it was closed down. In 2011 when the building was on the verge of collapse, it received a 7 million Rand makeover by the Johannesburg Development Agency.

The 3 offices of the law firm will house a library containing digitized documents of legal cases that were handled by the firm.

A museum will be situated on the ground floor and this will include court admission documents, previously unpublished photographs, banning orders – all relevant to the Mandela and Tambo Attorneys practice.

Advocate George Bizos, a life-time friend and advocate of Mandela was the special guest at the launch of the revamped building and said: I am very pleased about the initiative of the City to restore the building; it is a living structure, a living space of honour of Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Duma Nokwe, Mendi Msimang, Godfrey Pitje and others.  


  chancellor house restored 320   office mandela tambo 320  
  Chancellor House    The small reception & offices of
  after the restoration   Nelson Mandela & Oliver Tambo

It was also whilst awaiting sentence at the Rivonia trial that he wrote and passed his first LLB examinations as an external student registered through London University. By 1967 whilst on Robben Island he had progressed to his final year where he again stalled. His task became impossible when in 1970 the government put an end to his overseas supply of books through the British ambassador.

In 1974, he contemplated completing his Wits LLB, eliciting a cautious and legalistic response from the university rather than a sympathetic one. At that point, the Department of Prisons blocked his correspondence with Wits and refused him permission to continue his LLB studies, whether through London, Wits or Unisa.

As a consequence, Mandela was forced to return to undergraduate studies and enrolled for the BCom (Law) at Unisa. Ultimately, in 1981, it was the dean of law at Unisa, Professor Willem Joubert, who persuaded the government that it was ridiculous to continue blocking Mandela’s LLB, and he was enabled to enrol for the Unisa LLB, which he finally qualified for in 1989, 46 years after his first registration for the degree at Wits.

Many lawyers attended to Nelson Mandela’s legal and related matters during his incarceration. The Cape Town based legal firm Bernadt, Vukic, Potash & Getz (formerly Frank, Bernadt & Joffe) coordinated the work in the period 1966 – 1990. In 2004 Himan Bernadt presented the Centre of Memory with the firm’s legal files on Mandela. Repeatedly, Mandela resorted to the threat of legal action where the authorities broke or failed to follow their own rules, and the firm’s files document Mandela’s determination to challenge the system using every means available to him.


  daughters   mandela mothers pain  
  The daughters of Nelson Mandela   Nelson Mandela's mother -  
  & Winnie Madikizela:    Noqaphi Nosekeni, the third  
  Zindzi & Zenani   of Henry Gadla's four wives   

On 5 December 2013, Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95. The following the day The Law Society of South Africa, on behalf of its 6 constituent members issued the following statement.

‘To the world he was an icon, to his family and our nation, a father, but to the attorneys’ profession he was the embodiment of the principles that all in the profession aspire to: reconciliation, social justice and respect for the values enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

As a profession we are honoured that Mr Mandela chose to serve in our ranks. He, along with Oliver Tambo, opened the first black attorneys’ firm in the country, providing hope and dignity to a people given to despair, leading the way for our current generation of attorneys.’

Mandela's will was first written in 2004 and was amended in 2008.

Mandela's second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, was left out of the will. She and Mandela divorced in 1996.

In 2014 Winnie Mandela’s lawyers filed court papers claiming the property had been obtained while she was married to Mandela and belonged to her in terms of AbaThembu customs. In April 2016 the Mthatha High Court dismissed the application with costs. In Augustus 2016 she lodged an appeal to the SCA to overturn this decision.

May 2016 also saw the finalization of Nelson’s Mandela deceased estate. Executors George Bizos and Dikgang Moseneke explained Mandela’s will as follows:

Machel took ownership of four properties the couple jointly owned in Mozambique. She will also keep their vehicles, jewellery she received during the marriage and all money in their bank accounts or invested with other financial institutions.

Machel and Mandela were married in community of property. She was his third wife. Machel's children with former Mozambique president Samora Machel, Josina and Malengane Machel, received R3m each.

He left R100 000 each to Machel's six children born from a previous marriage. Machel had 90 days to decide whether she would waive her right to half of Mandela's estate, Moseneke said, which she subsequently did.

Mandela's homes in Houghton, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Qunu and Mthatha in the Eastern Cape were left to a family trust.

The family members would be able to use the five properties for their own accommodation as they saw fit.


  house at victor verster   retirement home at qunu  
  The house on the Prison grounds   Mandela’s former  
  at Victor Verster   retirement home in Qunu  

The money was divided as follows:

  •  Mandela's children with his first wife Evelyn, Makgatho Mandela and Makaziwe Mandela, would get R3.5m and R3.3m respectively.
  •  Makgatho's children, Mandla, Ndaba, Mbuso and Andile Mandela, would receive R1.1m each.
  •  Makaziwe's children - Dumani and Tukwini Mandela, Adjao Amuah and Kweku Amuah - would receive R1.1m each.
  •  Thembekile Mandela's children, Ndileka and Nandi Mandela, would get R3.3m each from the estate. Thembekile is Mandela's eldest son with Evelyn.
  •  Madikizela-Mandela's children, Zenani Mandela-Dlamini and Zindzi Mandela, are set to receive R3m each.
  •  Zenani's children - Zinhle, Zaziwe and Zamaswazi - would receive R100 000 each.
  •  Bambatha, Zondwa, Zwelabo and Zoleka, who are Zindzi's children, would also receive R100 000 each.
  •  Mandela's great grandchild, Zozuko Mandela, who is Zamaswazi's child, will get R100 000 from the estate.
  •  Nine staff members, who worked closely with Mandela, including his former personal assistant La Grange, received R50 000 each from the estate.
  •  Education institutions - the University of Witwatersrand and Fort Hare University - received R100 000 each.
  •  Qunu Secondary School in the Eastern Cape and Orlando West High School in Soweto, Gauteng, received R100 000 each. The institutions would use the money for bursaries and scholarships.
  •  The ANC would receive a minimum of 10% and a maximum of 30% of royalties from the NRM Family Trust.

Mandela's lawyer and friend George Bizos said the will showed how unselfish Mandela was.

"His wishes in his will are a summary of his wishes in life. He has also provided for education institutions. He was not selfish," said an emotional Bizos after the reading of the will.


  mandela pic   mandela s favourite 300 220  
  For a long time    Madiba with one of his  
  the world did not know   favourite 'people'.  
   what Mandela looked like.   What is Madiba saying?  
  This was an artist’s impression.   You decide!  



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